It isn’t difficult to put together a strategy to convert fans and followers into something you actually own — email subscribers. But too many are putting the effort on the backburner in favor of figuring out a new popular social network. Converting fans and followers to email subscribers is just smart. The benefits exceed those found with preserving your investment in social activity. The benefits are also found in what you do with the email database on an on-going basis.

Here are three reasons you should start taking email acquisition seriously and make it one of your top goals for 2012.

Your Social Network is Going to Be Replaced

Have you stopped to think about what would happen to your corporate investment in social media if Facebook disappeared tomorrow? What about Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+? As marketers we have spent countless hours growing our corporate following on these networks and many have even dedicated significant portions of their budget to the effort hoping to deliver a positive return on investment (ROI).

The reality is that web users are fickle and if these networks don’t stay on top of innovation they will be replaced. Think it seems unimaginable? Just look at how MySpace scoffed at Facebook in the beginning. Clearly, that was a bad move and the company suffered. They have laid off well over half of its workforce and got acquired by Specific Media for $35 million, a huge loss for NewsCorp who purchased MySpace for $580 million in 2005.

It’s kind of scary when you think about it. Can you imagine walking into your board meeting and saying, “Well who would’ve thought people would abandon Facebook? We don’t have any way to contact our fans now that they are over on ‘the new network.’ We’ll have to start over.”

I’m just imagining that the conversation wouldn’t go very well. You don’t own your fan’s and follower’s contact information and, therefore, you are at the mercy of the social network.Rather than waiting for the inevitable, it’s time to prepare and make sure you have adequately protected your social media investment.

You are More Likely to Deliver Positive ROI with an Integrated Email Strategy

If you want to convert more online leads from the social media channel it is absolutely critical to have a strong email follow-up strategy. Followers don’t convert into customers on Twitter because Twitter doesn’t sell your product or services. The path to conversion I’ve seen frequently is that the lead comes through a social media network, but tends to actually convert through another marketing channel like email or organic search, down the road. If you find a way to organically collect email addresses in exchange for social media content you can actually help drive the sales process with timely and relevant messaging.

When someone provides their email in exchange for content, just remember they have said they are interested in your CONTENT not your PRODUCT. Therefore, you’ll need the right email strategy to make sure you are taking care of social media leads because they are typically earlier in the buying process. Use these tips to avoid killing the social media sale.

Relationships Start on Social Media but are Fostered in the Inbox

Following a Twitter account or liking a page on Facebook doesn’t really say much about the level of relationship you have with the brand. I mean yeah, we like you because we’ve decided to pay attention to what you have to say, but we’ve done it on a network where we choose when we want to engage and you can’t really pester me. On a social network I control my engagement with the brand. However, think about the different level of intimacy that goes into providing a brand with your email address. Here’s what my process typically looks like. Do I want to receive on-going information from the company before I type my email address in the box.

As you can see, this is also about more than just getting the email address. It is about delivering tremendous value so you get the “right” email address and then sending messages that are relevant and high value to the audience. Matt Grant from MarketingProfs said it best:

“Ask yourself whether or not your audience would pay for your marketing content, if not, it’s not good enough.”

It’s time to start recognizing that the success of your social media effort is dependent on your success in generating email subscriptions. If you do this well you will be able to convert more social media leads, generate stronger relationships and keep your customers happier while finally showing a true ROI for your social media program.

“Your email marketing database is like gold. It has tremendous value and better yet, you own it. You don’t own Facebook or Twitter or Google+. If those social media sites change their permissions or disappear altogether, you’ll likely lose access to your list of friends/followers/fans you’ve grown over the years. But not email addresses. Those are yours to keep, yours to take with you from platform to platform.

Email addresses are the currency of the web. Use can use your email list to nurture prospects through the sales funnel as well as keep your current customers, clients, and fans informed on what’s happening in your business. Most importantly, an email marketing list can easily be segmented to best target specific groups. While it’s certainly possible to segment your social media followers, it’s a lot more difficult.” DJ Waldow of Waldo Social

What do you think? How do you use email marketing to support your social media efforts? Do you have a great example to share? Please leave comment and join the conversation.

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://waldowsocial.com DJ Waldow

    Clearly a bit biased on this one, but thanks so much for writing this, Nichole. I think too often we, as marketers, forget what has worked in the past and jump to the new/shiny tool. Email marketing is alive and well!

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Thanks so much DJ! You know you rock in my book! I am a firm believer that social media can create the lead, but they only convert with successful follow up email campaigns. Rock on!

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  • M Kamaljr

    A good reminder!

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! :-)

  • http://tribalstylemarketing.com/blog TribalStyleMarketing

    I was just having this conversation with someone recently.  It’s another reason why I believe those who continue to Blog, Vlog etc. will be able to gain SEO value, & create even more leads with their content.  I use WordPress.com because frankly, it’s so awesome & no hosting.  But, I have a link that readers can use to sign up for my e-Mail newsletter where I send them Content that is *not* on my Blog.  It’s already working out very well, because it’s acts as an auto segmenter.  Those who follow my Blog vs those who want my insider tips n’ tricks of mObile marketing.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      @TribalStyleMarketing:disqus I’m a wordpress user too. I like it because of the variety of plugins available that make it easy for me to manage the site without a web developer, if I don’t want one. I took a look at your site and like what I see. The one comment I have is that it isn’t super easy to buy from the site. I would recommend taking a look at your path to conversion and see where you can eliminate steps and where you need to add steps like conversion to email subscriber for people who are early in the buying cycle. If people want to buy from us, we certainly don’t want to make them have to think about it or make it difficult, right? 
      Thanks so much for commenting. 

  • http://www.AndreaVahl.com/ Andrea Vahl

    Great post Nicole!  E-mail is still king and I love the focus you put on getting the “right” e-mail address.  And I’ve never heard that quote from Matt Green at Marketing Profs but it’s awesome and so true!   Thanks – now I’m going to make sure my freebie is up to snuff.  I think it is but this was a great reminder to review it.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      @andreavahl:disqus Matt is awesome and a very smart guy! :-) @marketingprofs:twitter  has a very interesting business model that is worth following. They have free content, a paid subscription to get even more awesome content, and then high end paid content like online events. They do a great job of applying the information products model and attracting marketers who need high quality information while driving email subscribers. It is a super smart group over there. Definitely a site worth checking out. Good luck on your content review! From what I’ve seen your stuff rocks. :-) It might be worth testing a pop-up to see what happens to your subscription rates and list quality. 

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

    Great post Nichole! It’s all about the soft conversion with e-mail, then getting email content, frequency, and calls to action right. 

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Hey @nrobins1:disqus Great to see you on SME! Thanks so much for commenting. You’re right, the key is in the follow up email process. If you provide the right content, at the right time you will increase conversion rates. :-)

  • http://www.denisebutchko.com/ Denise Butchko

    Excellent reminders about the value and importance of your list.  I particularly love “if your audience wouldn’t pay for your content – it’s not good enough”  – that certainly raises the bar!

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      @092b166f5a3afaaf9bd82c6320a9165f:disqus I agree! Asking whether or not someone would pay for the content gives you a whole new perspective on whether or not the content achieves its mission. It flips the purpose of getting your message out on its head, doesn’t it? :-) Thanks so much for adding to the discussion.

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  • http://twitter.com/bruce_2b Bruce Wilson

    Thanks Nichole, good points and no beating around the bush. It’s particularly refreshing to see your inbox flow chart. It would be interesting to find out how many people use tiered email addresses like you describe. I do, but many people I know just have one address, still(!). This also reminds me of pop-over “please subscribe” messages, which are said to increase subscription rates, but make me want to abandon the page. Which raises the question: how might our bedside manner, as well as our content, skew subscriber behavior such that even if we net a higher number of subscribers, we might be connecting with proportionately fewer sophisticated (or easily irritated) subscribers—and how could this affect ROI?

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Great points @twitter-372487283:disqus . It’s interesting because I hate pop ups too. But I can tell you that on my own site it has dramatically increased the subscription rate. And based on the engagement I get when I send emails to the list it seems like I’m getting good quality email addresses. Clearly, my site targets marketers who you would think would quickly abandon the pop-up, however about 80% of my email subscribers result from that annoying little box. :-) For me, I decided I had to add a lot of value in exchange for the email address, so subscribers receive a free e-book which is promoted in the pop-up. 

      And like you I definitely have a tiered email system. I’d love to hear from others on whether or not they follow a similar process.

      Thanks so much for commenting Bruce. 

  • http://twitter.com/babbleonmedia Al Silva

    Excellent post. Absolutely should be the number one goal of marketers with a fan page. Thanks Nichole, you’ve got a new fan.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Al – Thank you so much! I’m honored to have you as a fan and look forward to continuing the conversation. :-)

  • http://www.cameronsbookstore.com/ Derek

    Hi Nicole, this article is a great reminder of the importance of email marketing, to be sure. All of your positive points about owning the emails are fantastic. But today’s world is different from the days when Facebook replaced Myspace. The entire social media and online landscape has changed dramatically. A better example than the one you provide is this: what happened when Google sought to compete with Facebook for social media dominance (Twitter aside for the moment)? Google introduced Google+ and there was a great deal of hype, but what happened? Did Google+ replace Facebook? Did Facebook replace Google+? No, most people diversified their portfolio’s. People are far more invested in Facebook then they ever were with Myspace. Facebook and Twitter are going nowhere fast! Email’s often get (and it may be different for you) between 15% and 25% percent read rate and cost lots of money. It costs nothing to position my company in front of hundreds or thousands of customers through simply status updates that link to websites (not to mention all of the other benefits social media offers such as event invitations and so on).

    I think email marketing and social media marketing are two different babies, and each can strength the other! There are pros and cons to both (of course), but what you have to say about email marketing is right on!

    Thanks

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